Summary of the chapter 29 "Language Death and Dying" by WALT WOLFRAM from the book "The Handbook of Language Variation and Change".
"Language Death and Dying," by Walt Wolfram, is the 29th chapter from The Handbook of Language Variation and Change, a language and linguistics textbook edited by J.K. Chambers, Peter Trudgill, and Natalie Schilling-Estes.
A brief summary of the main points made by Wolfram in his article, "Language Death and Dying," include the four types of language death:
Sudden language death - Sudden language death is when the speakers of the language either suddenly die or are killed.
Radical language death - Radical language death is similar to sudden language death in that both occur suddenly, but the key difference is that with radical language death there is a shift to another language opposed to the complete loss of the speakers of the original language. In many cases of radical language death, the speakers are forced to stop speaking their language and to to start speaking a new one.
Gradual language death - Gradual language death is the most common way a language dies. It is caused by "the gradual shift to the dominant language in a contact situation" (p 766). A good example would be the Navajo language which is gradually dying in that young Navajo people cannot speak, read, or write it, and the Elders are the only ones who can.
Bottom-to-top language death - This is the final way that a language dies. This occurs when the colloquial and casual use of the language dies, but the formal uses continue to exist. An example of this would be the judiciary Latin used in court documents and laws. In many ways, Latin is thought to be a dead language since it is not often used, but it still have some uses in the judicial systems in the United States.